American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Anglo-Dutch Mountain Survey, Watkins Mountains, East Greenland

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1970

Anglo-Danish Mountain Survey, Watkins Mountains, East Greenland. The Watkins Mountains are situated on the east coast in the unexplored area south of Scoresby Sund known as Knud Rasmussens Land. The range was discovered by Gino Watkins from the air in 1930. It was later determined that the highest point, Gunnbjörns Fjeld (3700 meters or 12,139 feet), was not only the highest mountain in Greenland but also the highest peak north of the Arctic Circle. The only expedition ever to reach the mountains was an Anglo-Danish party, led by Professor L.R. Wager in 1935, which also climbed Gunnbjörns Fjeld. These mountains are extremely difficult to reach and the main purpose of our expedition was to determine an access route from the north; hence we were more concerned with exploration than with pure mountaineering. Although we reached the outlying extensions of the Watkins Mountains, we were unable to get to our main mountain objective, Ejnar Mikkelsens Fjeld (3200 meters or 10,499 feet). It was a desperately tough expedition but I think we have sufficient information to plan a return visit. The team comprised Harry Vedøe and Vagn Bjerre Christensen from Denmark with George Spencely, Jack Carswell, Michel Barrault and myself as leader from Britain. A small charter aircraft brought the expedition to Scoresbysund on July 3. We set off up Scoresby Sund with dog sledges until the break-up of the fjord ice necessitated the use of a small boat. A very difficult journey brought us to Danmarks Island, whence a week later, on July 23, we were ferried to the icecap above the Syd Glacier by chartered helicopter, further surface travel being out of the question. We man-hauled the sledges inland on the icecap in extremely inclement weather, receiving a parachute drop of supplies on August 2. By August 11 at Camp 15, we had reached a point only 20 miles north of Ejnar Mikkelsens Fjeld, though the peak remained hidden by white-out conditions. The next camp at 8600 feet was the highest on our route over the icecap. We began the long trip back to Gaasefjord by a different route on August 11th and by travelling through permanent white-out and blizzard reached it on August 25. There were many technical problems during the last few miles. After some delays we were collected by boat on August 28.

Alastair Allan, Royal Geographical Society

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